Although I love looking at gadgets, I don’t have a lot of them. I don’t like Stuff, as you may know, and having a bunch of tools that do one specific thing each just seems wasteful, not to mention it seems a recipe for disorganization: do you store the tools and gadgets all together somewhere, in a Tool & Gadget Center, or do you store each one with the stuff with which you’ll use it, like fabric-manipulating tools with the fabric and paper-working tools with the paper? What about multi-media-working tools, then? Where would they go? The ever-so-slightly anal-retentive gadget collector could spend an infinite amount of time thinking about these things, which is a good reason not to have a ton of tools. But there are some tools that are so useful that you can’t pass them by, and I wanted to show you my favorites. Although I use these for working with fabric, they might well be exactly what you need for whatever you do.
These are what I think of as Pulling Tools, and they came from all over:
The loop turner, on the left, came from an estate sale. For me, there’s nothing better than the estate sale of someone who had been sewing pretty much forever: you can find tools you’ve never seen. Since they usually cost next to nothing (I think this was probably a dime), there’s no reason not to buy it, bring it home, and see what you can do with it. If it doesn’t work for you, you can drop it in the bag for the next trip to Goodwill. The hemostat came from one of those huge tool booths you see at every fair and craft show. You know the ones: they have magnifying glasses in every strength and every imaginable kind of screwdriver and dental tools that are perfect for sculpting clay. I have to just walk away from those booths lest I end up with 23 Phillips screw drivers and 10 sets of tiny, tiny screws I will never use. But cute! They’re so cute when they’re that tiny!
This one has this hinged hook closure thing on the end. I don’t make frogs or spaghetti straps, but I do need something that will allow me to pull thread or yarn through tiny holes, and this is perfect for that. It would work with fine wire, too, so there are all kinds of other uses for it.
Then there are the poking tools, some purchased and some made from sticks, chopsticks and a bamboo skewer. The one on the very left started out as a chopstick I cut off and sanded and used as a hair stick when I had long hair. Now it serves a variety of functions along with the rest: turning corners in fabric, sure, but also tucking under the edges of stuff, creasing stuff, rolling stuff. You get the idea: you can’t have too many smooth sticks in lots of lengths and sizes. Sadly, I even use one of these for turning on my iron, which is about 30 years old and long ago lost the on/off button. But, hey: it still works just fine once you get it turned on!
I’ve got a couple small-but-powerful magnets in the studio, mostly for picking up pins out of the rugs, but also for trying to find other stuff, like spilled metal beads. Finally I gave in and bought this from the hardware store, and I love it: right after I bought it, I really did spill a whole tray of metal beads, and this was invaluable for getting them out of the spaces in the old hardwood floor. Otherwise I would have had to use a pin to try to lift out each individual bead, and I would still be in there doing that instead of telling you how much I love this. While I use it mostly to sweep the rugs after a big project that used a lot of pins—to keep all the creatures in the house from finding those stray pins with our feet—it comes in handy for other stuff, too: reaching metal stuff that’s behind things or on top of things or under things. It’s like those little grabbers (and I have a couple of those, too: when you have cats in the studio, things are going to go missing in places a human can’t reach). If you use any little metal stuff, having one of these for clean-up is beyond helpful. (I found out about these from roofers, who use them to pick up nails that have fallen into the lawn.)
So those are some of my favorite tools. Not gadgets, nothing fancy, nothing that I’ll have to replace or supply with batteries. Just really useful multi-purpose tools I’d hate to work without. Your turn: what’s your most useful studio tool?
Use tools you have around the house as mark-making tools with Acrylic Techniques in Mixed Media by Roxanne Padgett.
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